He wants to trust again, but she’s keeping secrets
I’ve got trust issues. I don’t let people in, which caused me to lose a great girl last year. I know I need to change or I’m going to die alone a beach bum bartender.
The Destiny Dunes fill-in nurse practitioner, Piper, could be the one to flip my script. Seeing a life with her outside of this resort motivates me to figure out a way to take control of my career and open my own bar.
But when her slimy ex tries to bribe me to break her heart so she’ll go running back to him, I know something’s way off.
She’s keeping secrets from me. I can feel it. It’s hard to learn to trust when your gut and your heart are at war.
I thought I was taking the two-month job at Destiny Dunes for a little soul-searching, but I’ve gotten more than I bargained for with Logan.
I’ve always gravitated toward safe guys, but he has me parasailing, skinny-dipping, and trading my sweater sets for leather boots. I feel like I’m coming into my own for the first time in my life.
If I tell him what I’m keeping from him, he’ll look at me differently. First, I need to make sure I’m ready to hand him my heart no matter the consequences.
Welcome to Destiny Dunes, where the only thing hotter than the Florida sun is the romance between this resort’s employees. Each book in this steamy series focuses on your favorite romance tropes. Once you enter the gates of Destiny Dunes, you’ll never want to leave!
“That guy’s gonna be trouble,” Raven says as she scoops ice into a tall glass.
I pull a beer out of the cooler and pop the cap, setting it down in front of a customer. “What was your first hint? The Bitches Beware T-shirt, or the fact that the volume of his voice has risen to a notch above a firetruck’s siren?”
The six-and-a-half-foot goon belly laughs at something his dickhead friend says, stumbling backward, almost upending a bar table.
“Do you think I should call security?” she asks.
“Probably not the worst idea.”
She pulls her phone out of her back pocket. In a minute, she says, “They’re on their way. They’re just around the corner.”
A familiar woman in scrubs walks through the doorway and says something to tonight’s hostess, who points at me. Odds are she wants to place a to-go order. I’ve seen her. She moved in across the street from me a few days ago. She walks around like she’s balancing a tiara on her head.
The second she steps in my direction her composure shatters like a glass of beer dropping to the floor. Cro-Magnon man tosses his arm out to the side in some stupid gesture, sending the woman stumbling backward. I jump over the bar to check on her, but the guy reaches her first.
“Oh shit. Did I do that?” he asks, bringing her to her feet. “You okay?” He pulls her into his chest, crushing her against him, stroking her hair with a big, meaty hand. “She’s fine.”
“Hey,” I say, getting his attention. “Let go of her.”
“Who the fuck are you? Her boyfriend?” he asks, laughing and holding on to her.
“I’m not asking again,” I say.
He considers me, and as he loses focus on her, she wiggles away from him.
“Why don’t you and your friend get the fuck out of here before security gets here,” I say. “They’re on their way.”
“Do you think I’m afraid of some rent-a-cop? Fuck off and mind your own business before I—”
I sucker punch him in the nose, but he’s so massive I barely make a dent. He lunges for me, and I duck, sending him stumbling. I have the advantage of being sober.
My throbbing hand registers the pain. I shake it, and my second of lost focus gives him enough time to break a beer bottle and lunge at me. I toss up my arm to protect my face, and he gets me with a slice on my forearm as I maneuver away from him.
A security guard grabs me as another one grabs him, but he easily shakes the guy off and comes at me and the security guard who’s holding me. We stumble backward as he clobbers us, and we all roll to the floor, the impact knocking the wind out of me. I don’t know what’s up, down, or sideways as giant bodies crush me, jabs going into my side as I try to push the guy off of me. The other security guard gets his bearings and knocks the fuck out of the guy with his baton, and now he is the focus of the goon’s anger. I take the opportunity to slither away, and as I do, the security guard who originally had me, puts his focus on the goon. The two of them are finally able to wrangle him out the door.
The girl in the scrubs appears in front of me. All of her dark hair is swept back into a clean ponytail without a strand out of place, even after being manhandled by the goon. “Are you okay?” she asks, her brown eyes darting back-and-forth between my eyes as she gauges me for signs of life. She focuses on my arm. “I want to take a look at that. Come with me.” She grabs my good arm and pulls me out of the restaurant. The security guards are in a screaming match with the goon. “Come on,” she says, picking up her pace.
“We don’t have to run because of that asshole,” I say, trying to keep up with her.
She’s still holding my hand. “I just want away from that guy, if you don’t mind,” she says, giving me a look back.
I follow behind her as she pulls me into the clinic a few doors down from the bar where I work.
“What’s going on?” the guy at the front desk asks her, looking confused. “Where is our dinner?”
She ignores him, pulls me into the exam room, and closes the door behind her. She smooths her hand over her hair, glancing around the exam room like she’s getting her bearings, her breathing heavy.
I touch her on the shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, of course I’m okay,” she says, not seeming fine at all.
“Are you sure about that?” I nudge her over to the exam table and she sits on it.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “That was just extremely intense.”
“Have you never been in a bar fight?” I ask, trying to lighten the mood.
“No, of course not,” she says, clearly not getting my humor.
I consider her, realizing this may have been more traumatic for her than I can understand. “That guy holding onto you like that…that seemed really gross,” I say, not knowing how else to describe it.
“Yeah,” she says, finally meeting my gaze. There’s something about her face that’s friendly, despite her rigid demeanor. I think it’s her little bitty nose. It kind of curves up like a ski slope. “Gross is a good way to describe that.” She looks down at herself like she’s tainted.
“Do you want to go home and change? Get a shower?”
She jumps off the table. “No, I’m fine. I’m a nurse. I’ve dealt with worse than that.”
“I’m glad we cleared that up. Otherwise, I was wondering when we were going to get kicked out of this exam room.” My jokes don’t seem to do much for her.
“Have a seat on the table, please,” she says, taking on a professional, unaffected air.
I follow her instructions and sit. She washes and dries her hands and then puts on rubber gloves. “I’m going to check for glass in this wound.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I say. She opens a pack of instruments and takes my arm. “You’re Simone’s roommate, aren’t you?”
She frowns at me. “How did you know that?”
“I live across the street from you. Simone and I are tight.”
“Oh,” she says. “I didn’t realize. I haven’t met her yet.”
“Yeah, I know. She’s been in Nashville this week. I’m Logan, by the way.”
“You moved in Wednesday, right?”
“That’s right,” she says, turning my arm as she inspects it up close.
“I saw you out there with your…boyfriend?” I ask.
“No. That was my…that was just someone who was helping me.” She puts my arm down and goes over to the counter.
“Okay,” I say, wondering what the story is there.
“My boyfriend will be here in the morning. He’s visiting for the weekend, and then he’s leaving for London on Sunday.”
“Oh,” I say, trying not to sound too disappointed. She’s uptight, but she’s cute. “You can take him to the bar. Show him where you got mauled by a grizzly bear.”
She wipes away the blood on my arm. “I don’t think you need stitches. I’ll dress this and let it heal on its own.”
“Works for me. What’s your boyfriend going to be doing in London?”
“Working,” she says, opening a tube and squeezing some gel onto her finger. “He’s there for a two-month project. We’re taking a little break.”
“You mean from each other, or…”
“No,” she says, her cheeks going pink. “We’re still together, of course…I think…I’m not totally sure, actually.”
“I just need some time to think.” She goes over and gets a bandage. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. It doesn’t kill couples to be apart for a few months.”
“Of course not. But I wouldn’t really know too much about that.”
“Being in a couple?” she asks.
“Yeah. I don’t do the couple thing.”
She applies a bandage to my arm. “Well, you’re missing out. Being in a relationship is a wonderful thing. Someone to spend evenings with cozied up on the couch, someone to cook with and go to movies with and share your life with. Who wouldn’t want that?” There’s a sadness to her tone, like maybe she’s trying to convince herself.
“It’s also fun sleeping around,” I say.
She gives me a look like I’m a pile of dogshit she stepped in. “Keep that clean and dressed,” she says, tossing her gloves in a trash can.
She opens the door to the exam room and peers into the small lobby. The tension in her shoulders falls, and she opens the door wider. She holds out her hand to me. “Thank you for what you did at the bar.”
I shake her hand. “It was no problem.”
She scans my face like she wants to say something then walks over to her computer and sits down.
“Are you coming back to get your dinner?” I ask.
“No, I’m not hungry anymore.”
“I am,” says the guy at the front desk.
“What do you want to eat?” I ask. “I’ll bring something for both of you.”
“You don’t need to do that,” she says.
“I’ll take the quesadilla,” says the guy.
“And you?” I ask.
She lets out a sigh. “I guess I’ll take a bowl of gumbo, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“It’s not,” I say.
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a credit card that she offers me.
“I think this one needs to be on the house after what you went through in there.”
She pockets her credit card. “Thank you.”
I head back to the bar and walk up to the kiosk to put in the order for the food.
“How’s your arm?” Raven asks.
“No stitches. Just a surface wound. What happened to the guy?”
“They’ve detained him. The police are on their way.”
Mike, my manager, walks by and I grab him. “Hey, I need you to comp this ticket.”
“This is for the girl who got mauled in here a minute ago.”
He gives me a skeptical look and then swipes his card through the machine. “She’s hungry for a woman, isn’t she?”
I don’t answer. I try to say as little as possible to Mike. He’s not my biggest fan, and I’m not his.
When the runner delivers the food to the bar, I grab it and head to the clinic. When I walk in, I notice the door to the exam room is closed. I set the food down in front of the guy at the desk. “Is she with a patient?”
“No, she’s in there alone.” He leans in. “I think she’s crying.”
“You didn’t check on her?”
“I just met her tonight. She’s not the most open person, you know.”
I frown at him and then take the bowl of gumbo out of the bag along with the package of plastic utensils. I walk over to the door and knock.
There’s a moment’s hesitation before she says, “Come in.” I open the door, and while she’s trying hard not to show it, she’s been crying. She takes the soup from me. “Thank you. This was very kind. This soup was recommended by a patient earlier tonight.”
“It’s the best thing we make, but we only make it on Fridays for some stupid reason.”
She nods, touching her face as if she’s nervous.
I shut the door behind me and say, “Would you like to talk about anything?”
“No, why would you ask me that?”
“Because you’re clearly rattled. I know that guy—”
She shakes her head, pressing her fingertips against her forehead. “It wasn’t that guy. I mean…that was bad and I never want to have to go through it again, but it’s not him.”
I pull the visitor chair over to her and sit. “Is it another guy?”
Her expression goes tight, and I can tell she’s trying to hold back tears.
“Is it your boyfriend?”
She grabs a couple of tissues and dabs at her eyes. “It’s just that change is hard. I was so sure I was doing the right thing, and now this happens. It feels like a sign. And I’m not into any of that kind of woo woo stuff.”
I hold back a smile, because she doesn’t need me making fun of her right now, but I have no idea what woo woo stuff is. “It doesn’t have to be a sign. It can just be an asshole in a bar. There’s plenty of those. Hell, more times than not I’m probably the asshole in the bar.”
She meets my gaze with those big brown doe eyes. Or maybe she’s just reminding me of a deer because she’s so vulnerable right now.
“You don’t seem like an asshole,” she says, gauging me.
“Well, many of the women in the greater panhandle area would disagree, but that’s probably a story for another time.” I smile at her to put her at ease, hoping she will eventually get my humor.
Her expression softens, and I feel like she wants to smile but she can’t quite get there.
“You said you were trying to do the right thing,” I say. “What is that? What are you trying to do?”
She rubs her forehead. “I’m trying to make a decision.”
“What decision is that?”
“Whether or not to marry my boyfriend.”
“Oh. That’s a big decision. How long have the two of you been together?”
“A year,” she says and then looks at me with her face kind of scrunched up.
“That’s a decent amount of time. When did he propose?”
“He’s been proposing for about six months now. But this time he proposed with an ultimatum. He said he was going to have to move on if I couldn’t give him a firm yes or no.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Worried I’m going to do the wrong thing.”
“I would think you would know whether or not you wanted to marry a guy after a year.”
“Sounds like it. When do you have to give your answer?”
“In two months,” she says, fumbling with the top of her gumbo. “That’s how long I’m here. Laura, the other night nurse, is on maternity leave for two months. I was supposed to go to London with Thomas, and then I found this. I thought it was a sign. Maybe I’m more into that woo woo stuff than I think I am.”
I squint at her. “I let it go the first time, but now I’ve got to ask. What is woo woo stuff?”
She smiles with a little giggle, and her face blossoms. I thought she was cute before, but now that I see how a smile transforms her, I know cute doesn’t cover it.
“It’s like spacey, New Age thinking. The stars aligning, fate, those kinds of nonsensical ideas.”
“Ah. Yeah, I’m not into that stuff.” I think about how, just as I was starting to believe that Bailey was the girl for me, my cousin decided he wanted her. The stars didn’t exactly align in my direction, because he ended up with the girl.
“I’m not either,” she says, like she’s making a decision. She stands up. “I’m sorry for burdening you with my problems. It wasn’t very professional.”
“I’m not your patient any longer. Now I’m officially your friend.” I give her what I hope is a comforting smile as I stand.
“Thank you, once again,” she says, touching me on the arm like she’s not sure what to do.
I hold out my arms. “Would you like a hug?”
She considers me like she’s solving a physics problem.
I drop my arms. “Next time.”
As I’m about to walk out the door, she says, “Yes, I would.”
I turn around and raise an eyebrow.
“I’ll take that hug,” she says, holding out her arms, but keeping them close to her body.
I walk over to her and draw her into my chest, holding her there. I keep expecting her to pull away, but she doesn’t, so I let her live there as long as she wants. I get a whiff of her hair, and the scent of almonds and vanilla sends a shot of warmth through my chest, jerking me to my senses. I pull away, getting my bearings. I point to her food. “I’ll let you eat your dinner. Thanks for taking care of my arm.” Before she can say much in return, I shoot out the door and back to the bar.
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